US general testifies to ignorance in marine massacre case
May 11, 2007 - 9:22:00 AM

Los Angeles, May 11 - A top US general has testified that there was little initial indication that anything was amiss after marines shot and killed 25 civilians in the aftermath of a roadside bomb attack in 2005 in Haditha, Iraq.

The trial is taking place at the main Marine base in Camp Pendleton, Southern California.

Speaking via a video link from the Pentagon, Major General Richard Huck, who commanded the second Marine Division at the time of the November 2005 alleged massacre, said Thursday that he believed the villagers had been killed in combat until a reporter from Time magazine asked questions about the incident several weeks later, reports said.

Huck's testimony came on the third day of a hearing for Captain Randy Stone, a Marine legal officer who is one of four officers charged with dereliction for allegedly failing to fully investigate and report the two dozen civilian deaths. The incident occurred immediately after one Marine had been killed and two others wounded in the roadside bombing.

Huck testified that reports of the civilian deaths had been sent up the chain of command to General George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq at the time of the incident, but had raised no red flags. None of those superiors told Huck there should be further investigation into the deaths, he testified.

Huck's testimony came after Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz gave a chilling account Wednesday of how Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich shot the first five victims as they were being held at gunpoint with their hands raised in the air.

Dela Cruz, who has been granted immunity in return for his testimony, then also sprayed the victims with bullets before Wuterich shot each one again in the head and told him: 'If anyone asked, they were running away, and the Iraqi army shot them.'

Dela Cruz also testified that he had urinated on one of the bodies of the victims.

Wuterich and two other soldiers are now facing multiple counts of murder

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